A new scheme has been launched to protect children and vulnerable people in Derbyshire who are at risk of exploitation from county lines drug dealing.
Hardyal Dhindsa, Derbyshire police and crime commissioner, brought together partners from across the county to discuss how they can work together to support the young and vulnerable people.
The event was opened by Reverend Bishop Libby Lane who, as well as being the Bishop of Derby, is the vice-chairman of the Children’s Society.
The Society recently published a report ‘Counting Lives’ which looks at children who are criminally exploited
And delegates heard from Professor Simon Harding, from the University of West London, about how fundamental changes to the drugs market have led to 24-hour ‘dial-a-drug’ market.
Professor Harding says these are run by sophisticated gangs, with the drug running and selling being undertaken by children as young as seven in some cases.
Chief Constable Peter Goodman told the conference that the first county line into Derbyshire was identified in 2013, and since then more lines had been identified and disrupted.
His plea, echoed by other policing colleagues, was for partners to share concerns and intelligence they might have to help develop a richer intelligence picture to help understand the true extent of County Lines locally.
Speaking after the event Mr Dhindsa said: “I have worked with police colleagues to pull this event together as I believe we have a window of opportunity to prevent county lines getting a firm foothold here in Derbyshire.
“It has been helpful to hear from police officers, academics and other stakeholders who have been involved in county lines in other parts of the country.
"I think everyone has learned a lot today that will help us take this issue forward in the future.
“The sophistication of these operations has struck me, and it is a shame that this level of business acumen is not being applied in a more positive way
“This may seem a very glamorous and attractive lifestyle on the surface.
"However, the powerful personal testimonies from those involved show that this is a highly dangerous way of life, with so called ‘friends’ exploiting vulnerable people and not shying away from the use of shocking levels of violence and coercion to maintain control.
“Young and vulnerable people who get caught up in county lines should, in my opinion, be considered as victims, even if they have also been involved in activity that breaks the law.
“I now intend to work with the Chief Constable and other senior strategic partners to see how we can to improve the flow of information between agencies.”